Blinking Red


Blinking Red

Crisis and Compromise in American Intelligence after 9/11

Michael Allen

282 pages
10 photographs


July 2016


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

September 2013


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About the Book

After the September 11 attacks, the 9/11 Commission argued that the United States needed a powerful leader, a “spymaster,” to forge the scattered intelligence bureaucracies into a singular enterprise to vanquish America’s new enemies: stateless international terrorists. During the 2004 presidential election, Congress and the president remade the post–World War II national security infrastructure in less than five months, creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
               Blinking Red illuminates the complicated history of the bureaucratic efforts to reform America’s national security after the intelligence failures of 9/11 and Iraq’s missing weapons of mass destruction, explaining how the National Security Council (NSC) and Congress shaped the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks. Michael Allen asserts that the process of creating the DNI position and the NCTC is a case study in power politics and institutional reform. By bringing to light the legislative transactions and political wrangling during the reform of the intelligence community, Allen helps us understand why the effectiveness of these institutional changes is still in question. 

Author Bio

Michael Allen is the former staff director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Previously, he served for more than seven years in the White House in various national security roles, including NSC senior director for counterproliferation strategy, NSC senior director for legislative affairs, and legislative affairs lead for the Homeland Security Council. After leaving the White House, Allen joined the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he was director of the National Security Preparedness Group. Allen lives in Washington DC.


“The log-rolling and infighting that produced the unwieldy [director of national intelligence] structure is explained in [this] fascinating new book.”—David Ignatius, Washington Post

Blinking Red is the definitive historical account of intelligence reform after September 11th. A monumental work, it covers the politics and policies that transformed American national security. A must read for students of history and politics.” —Gen. Michael Hayden, principal at the Chertoff Group, former director of the CIA, and principal deputy director of national intelligence

“A number of important observations emerge from Allen’s carefully constructed history of the [Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act] that both help us understand its final form and provide a basis for engaging in comparisons with past and future congressional intelligence reform efforts.”—Glenn Hastedt, Political Science Quarterly

“A fascinating book that provides an insider’s view into how the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevent Act became law in the years following the 9/11 attacks.”—Erik Dahl, H-Intel

“A suspenseful and stunning look at intelligence reform, Blinking Red takes you inside the halls of the power–the White House, Congress, Pentagon, and the CIA. Michael Allen sets the records straight and crafts a masterful narrative about power politics and national security. Interviews with the nation’s highest levels of decision makers coupled with exhaustive research make this a complete accounting of intelligence reform as well as a page-turner.”—Stephen Hadley, principal at RiceHadleyGates LLC and former national security advisor under President George W. Bush

“With Michael Allen’s book, there is at last a comprehensive history of the most far-reaching reform of American intelligence since 1947. It will serve as an invaluable guide to anyone seeking to understand this complex phase in the evolution of American intelligence–and will be extremely helpful to those seeking to judge the effectiveness and chart the future of this crucial enterprise.”—John McLaughlin, Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and former deputy director and acting director of the CIA

Table of Contents



Author's Note

A Note on Intelligence and Its Terminology

A Short History of the Intelligence Community

1. Blow Up

2. The Making of a Juggernaut: The Origins of the 9/11 Commission and Its Recommendations

3. Tenet

4. Revolution Is Coming

5. Grand Vision

6. "The Fix Was In": Initial Consideration in Congress and the White House

7. Congressional August

8. The Devil in the Details: NSC Consideration of a DNI and an NCTC

9. Cabinet Room

10. Attackers

11. High Ransom

12. Touching Gloves

13. Dirty Bombs

14. Time for a New Approach

15. Black Saturday

16. Win at All Costs

17. Bureaucratic Black Arts





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